Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The chaos of starting afresh here in the UK has not yet ceased. From when we collected our van, it has been a mad-house trying to get it kitted out for racing, along with preparing for our first trackday thrown in to the equation; it was a relief to get to Brands Hatch and put some laps in!

We collected our new Triumph Daytona 675 TTC race bike from T3 racing in our new van on Wednesday, and a day later we were on our way to the legendary Brands Hatch. When we drove into the circuit, it was immediate that we were on a truly world class stage for our opening round of the championship. I have never seen a neater and well-maintained circuit, with its massive media centres and World Superbike spec pits, it makes you fully aware of the fact that this is what racing is about at the highest level.

We got the bike out, gave it a ‘once-over’, and I got out for the first session. My first greeting came from Paddock Hill bend – a corner that no simulator, TV footage, or any description can do justice for what it is actually like to ride it. You enter on a completely blind rise, onto a plateau which curves gradually, and then drop down, blind again, into the dip at the bottom of the hill. The G-forces are incredible as you start accelerating up the other side towards Druids with the back tyre squirming under the weight of the G-forces and the compressed suspension.

Druids is a tight hairpin that leads you into another rapid downhill acceleration towards Graeme Hill bend. Graeme Hill is left hander at the bottom of the hill that starts as an off-camber, and becomes an on-camber mid corner, the flattens out on the exit – This track is amazing with it’s undulations.

Since we’re racing the Indy(shorter) circuit, you then accelerate down Copper straight, pitch in to a left hand sweep, and then flick right into McLaren – a 90deg right which leads into another drop down to the bottom of Clearways. Clearways then changes from an off-camber to an on-camber, and you can open up the throttle through this long right hand sweep which gradually opens up to the start/finish straight.

It’s a short lap, but what a lap! With over 100 laps completed, we came within reach of competitive times by the end of the day, but still had more to learn.

We returned to Brands the next Monday (26 March) for our second outing. With some base lines to work off, we had a much better understanding of what we needed to work on and achieve. Every lap of the circuit is awesome, but I needed to make up some time to get into top 10 pace, so lines and gearing became top priority. With some local knowledge coming my way from one of the instructors, and a few small adjustments to suspension, I really got to grips with the bike’s handling. After another 100 lap day, we dropped another second off our time, which around that short circuit, is a lot! We missed our goal lap time by 0.1s, but we were happy with what we’d achieved.

The Triumph has a beautifully balanced chassis that is very forgiving through the undulations, and the smooth, torquey engine is a very easy to ride hard. Around Brands Indy, it was great fun to ride and push hard!

This was our last outing until the first race, back at Brands Hatch, for round one of the BSB series on Easter weekend (6-9 April). We will, however, be at Thruxton this weekend in a rental car, aka Rent-a-racer, for a few laps around the circuit as they don’t have public track days for motorbikes. This will be used so that I can get an idea of the layout for round 2, the weekend after Brands.

We spent today finishing off preparations on the bike for round 1, but without our equipped garage at home. We set up Egan Tuning Roadside Race-Bike Maintenance and got on with the job! The bike is now ready for action, come Brands Hatch.
We are now settled in our new flat in Colchester with fellow SA racer Bjorn Estment. It has been another big learning curve for all of us in house training! Confusion and guessing have been the main ingredients… But we’re finding our feet in the kitchen slowly. We need Roxanne to play minister of health!

It’s a beautiful little city where we are, buzzing with activity in High Street, and picturesque and serene on the outskirts in the parks and rivers. I’m enjoying it here so far, and with Britain’s hottest day of the year yesterday so far, (23deg) the weather is certainly good! But it’s still early days.


Saturday, 24 March 2012

First taste of England

It has been nothing short of chaos since we touched down at Gatwick airport. Starting with navigation around some of the world’s most complex roundabouts, to van-searching in the downtown slums of London. 650 Miles in four days finally lead us to a van, and over 2hrs of phone calls in a day to insure one vehicle – we’ve had quite an experience so far!

We’ve already covered many miles through the country sides and cities, and this has really proved to be a truly beautiful country. The weather is a small price to pay for the people that you interact with, and the way everything operates so efficiently. It’s also great to be in such a modern community that still lives in the 16th century – well, their houses, buildings and country roads.

We landed on Thursday 15th March, got our hire car and headed straight to T3 Racing in Kent to see the bike! There stood our brand new Triumph Daytona 675 race bike, only pending stickers, just calling me to take it out on track!

Friday, we set out on a mission to find a van, insurance and finalise our flat in Colchester. So we made the hour drive to Colchester from Kent, under the Thames in the Dartford Tunnel and into Essex. There we met up with Bjorn Estment - fellow South African racer and future flat mate. We spent the entire day searching for vans and just viewed our prospecting flat from the outside.

We headed home to Kent empty handed in terms of flat and van progress, but not in tourist treats – seeing the beautiful country sides and lifestyle of the British was an eye-opener. A great sight is crossing over the Thames via the incredible Dartford Suspension Bridge!

With more phoning and searching that evening, we realised our ideal van would be harder to find than anticipated. After days more of travelling from Colchester, west-bound to the slums of London with “Honest Joe” nearly taking us for a ride, we eventually found THE van on eBay in Hastings – The very south coast of the UK. We were the only bidders just hours before it was due to close, and after speaking with the seller and arranging to pick the van up on Sunday morning, we were sure we had it. Then, 8 seconds before closing, a car dealer outbid us and we lost it as we were going to fetch it! All was lost, we were desperate and thought we found our break and it was a perfect fit for what we need. We slumped down, despondent and disappointed to search again. Then the phone rang, and the seller decided we needed the van more than a salesman who was just going to make a quick buck off it, and said he cancelled with the bidder and would sell it to us! We were elated and immediately rushed down to buy it.

We would like to thank Roy, the seller, for being so kind and helpful to us in getting this essential part of our season together – we greatly appreciate it!

We drove off with our bright red 2007 Ford Transit and spent the whole of Monday trying to find insurance for it – I am sure it would have been easier to start our own insurance company than it was to find someone to insure us at a reasonable rate. With insurance quotes at nearly the same value as the van, and over 2 hours on the phone and £20/R240 airtime later, we finally got it insured at a respectable rate.

Next was the Flat, which we had settled on and were moving into on Monday, or so we thought. The estate agents had different plans! We had booked out of our BnB and planned to move in, when we were told we had to sign some forms and then it was ours, BUT they had to do reference checks which take 3 days… So now we had nowhere to stay! Reluctantly, we are back in the horrifically expensive BnBs until Thursday. So we are due to move in after our first trackday at Brands Hatch.

With all of this out of our hair soon, we are looking forward to getting on track with our new bike. We are going to be at Brands on Wednesday for the official BSB (British Super Bike) testing, but will only be riding on Thursday.

That’s our story so far – plenty more to come, and we will keep you all updated!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

2012 Plans

We have been hard at work over the last couple months, getting all in order for our 2012 season, which some of you may have noticed, does not entail us racing in South Africa. We will be taking part in the Triumph Triple Challenge, running with the BSB (British Super Bike) series in the UK.

This came about after we were let down by a would-be sponsor at the last minute. Roger at Ryder Motorrad had offered us a new 2012 BMW S1000RR and his support once again, but without a cash sponsor, we could not do it!

This may have been the nudge we needed to make the move overseas. We had enquired with the TTC (Triumph Triple Challenge) at the beginning of 2011, before our relationship with Ryder Motorrad was formed. We left it at that. Then, in November last year, I received a phone call from Tony Scott, the director of T3 Racing who runs the TTC for Triumph, to inform me more about the series and encourage us to take part. We bought his sales pitch and now we’re getting on a plane on Wednesday (14 March) to start our UK adventure, just two days after my 21st birthday!

The series was formed, not only as an affordable way for riders to get a foot in the pit-lane of the BSB paddock, but more as a talent-spotting class for Triumph Racing. All the bikes are built by the same people, and with all the same parts to ensure a level playing field.
It goes further than just a fair opportunity – included in your entry fee, is fitness training at Cambridge University, a personalised diet, rider training and skills development in personal marketing & presentation. So the series goes beyond the track with its competitors.

Fortunately we have received some support from Lawrence Watson at LD Refrigeration again, taking some of the load off Dad’s pension fund – Our title sponsor! We are making this opportunity a reality now, not only because of the circumstances, but because I am still young enough to start fresh in new championships. A few years from now will be leaving it a bit late!

My dad will be coming over with me initially to help get set up and working smoothly, but then Bjorn Estment (a good friend from Jo’burg who races 600s) and I will be sharing a flat and travelling to the races together. He has also made the move this year and will be riding in the Superstock 600 class with Seton Yamaha.

We will still run all of our newsletters, race reports, Facebook & Twitter updates and Autodealer newspaper articles to keep our supporters informed. I will soon be starting a blog on our whole trip and will send out details when it’s ready.
We are still looking for sponsors of any size as no foreign move is cheap. For anybody interested in supporting us with any amount please get in contact with us and we will put a sponsorship deal together! Any recommendations and word-of-mouth exposure is hugely appreciated too!

You will be able to reach us on the following numbers once we land in the UK:
James – (+44)782 508 3543
Mike – (+44)750 304 7188

We would like to say thank you to everyone who has helped us and supported us over the years, from sponsors to spectators, we are very grateful! Here’s to a successful year ahead.